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Electric Receptacle Placement

Of course you put a tester in the receptacles during the inspection. We are going to look at receptacles a little differently. The most common types of branch circuits are; General Purpose (15 or 20 amp, lighting, and general purpose receptacles), Small Appliance Circuits (usually 20 amp, found in kitchens and other areas where small appliances are located), Individual Circuits (Supply a single appliance or receptacle, normally 20 amps and more). 240 Volt circuits should be on their own circuit.

Common duplex receptacles have two outlets and are connected by a metal tab. If this tab is removed, each outlet can be wired to a separate circuit. A 20 amp receptacle has a horizontal slot connected to the vertical slot on the neutral side. I often wonder why someone would run #12 AWG and install a 15 amp receptacle. When conducting a home inspection, receptacle placement is something we should be looking for. Not for code compliance, or home inspection standards, but for our clients convenience. If there is one receptacle in a room, we would recommend adding additional receptacles, a pull chain in the center of a room would warrant a wall switch. Receptacle placement may also indicate if a qualified electrician wired the house or not. For our clients convenience, and in my opinion, a good quality inspection, we should look for the following:

  • A receptacle outlet must be installed so that no point along the wall space will be more than 6 feet horizontally from another receptacle. This is to ensure that a 6 foot cord will reach the receptacle, so an extension is not needed.
  • Wall sections, fixed exterior glass panels, counters and railings that are at least 2 feet long and uninterrupted along the floor by doors, openings, or fireplaces. Sliding portions of glass doors on exterior walls are not considered wall space.
  • Receptacles in rooms should be located 12-16 inches from the floor (switches should be 46-48 inches from the floor).
  • Two or more small appliance circuits of at least 20 amperes are required in all kitchens. These circuits must be dedicated and therefore not connected to any other circuit.
  • In kitchens, a receptacle must be installed at each wall counter space 12 inches or wider. Receptacles must be installed no further than 24 inches apart measured horizontally, this means the first receptacle must be located not more than 24 inches from the edge of the counter space, and the next receptacle can be no more than 48 inches from the first one.

Lighting in closets are not required, but many homes do have lights in closets. We should be looking for the following;

  • Exposed light bulbs are not acceptable in closets
  • Totally enclosed incandescent fixtures must be a minimum distance of 12 inches from the storage space and surface mounted fluorescent fixtures must be a minimum distance of 6 inches from the storage space.
  • Completely enclosed recessed fluorescent fixtures must be at least 6 inches from the storage area

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